English Yew lends itself admirably to the art of topiary as it is slow growing but will withstand repeated pruning and can be cut hard back as it regenerates from old wood. It is suitable for growing either in full sun or shade but the soil must be well drained otherwise it can suffer from root rot.
As a plant with tightly knit growth it is superb for maintaining clearly defined shapes such as balls, cones, pyramids, animals, cars and trains to name but a few. These living sculptures require a very steady hand and a lot of patience to maintain especially if cutting freehand, there is certainly an art to it and when all is said and done a hedge is just a very simple form of topiary used to create a boundary.
English Yew is a long-lived plant possibly reaching 400 years old or more and so it would be nice to think that in years to come a carefully shaped and nurtured piece of topiary could be there for generations as indeed the elegant structures of some stately homes are, for example some of the specimens in Chateau Villandry in France are over 100 years old, similarly at Tatton Park in Cheshire and many others besides.
Of course you don’t have to live in a stately home or a churchyard where other examples of English Yew topiary may be found, and if a steady hand is not available you can begin shaping the topiary with a preformed wire cage so that you just trim to the shape of the cage and the topiary shape does not necessarily have to be large to make a statement, as they say small is beautiful.